THE ATLAS OF PETER SCHLEMIHL


I have repeatedly observed with truly inexpressible admiration the magnificent shadow which you, standing in the sun, with a certain noble contempt and without being aware of it, cast from you, this wonderful shadow there at your feet. Forgive this truly daring imposition but would you not perhaps consider disposing of your shadow?

I had forty wax candles lit so as to illuminate the room from  all sides before I emerged from the dark. The safest andmost sensible thing for a man to do who has no shadow is to avoid walking in the sun.




I had not walked two hundred paces when I realized that I had lost my way. I looked about me. I was in a deserted forest, no axe, it seemed, had ever been laid to the roots of those ancient firs. I hurried on a few steps and saw that only moss and stones surrounded me; piles of snow and ice lay between the dreary rocks. I began to march slowly fowards, like a recruit on tha barrack square. A wonderful panorama of countries - fields and meadows, mountains, wastes and sandy deserts, unrolled before my astonished eyes. There could be no doubt about it, I wore the seven-league boots on my feet.

Shut out I was from human society by my youthgul folly, the glories of nature, which I had always loved, where spread before me like a garden of unparalleled richness. There would be the objects of my study, the guide and strength of a life whose sole aim was the pursuit of science.

I fell to my knees in an access of gratitude and devotion.
Suddenly my future opened before me in glowing colour




I have studied more deeply than any of my predecessors, and to the further limits my boots would take me, everything concerned with the earth: its surface, altitude, temperatures; the changes of its atmosphere; the manifestations of magnetic power; life in all forms.


Remember, while you live in the world to treasure first your shadow and then your money. But if you choose to live for your inner self alone, you will need no counsel of mine.




‘The Atlas of Peter Schlemihl’ is a collection of works inspired on a book. In 1814 Albert von Chamisso wrote Peter Schlemihl’s Miraculous Story as a cautionary children’s tale. The story is about a man who makes a trade with the devil; his shadow in exchange for a bottomless wallet.

Schlemihl quickly learns he has been tricked, without a shadow there is no acknowledgement of his existence. He is frowned upon by society, the woman he loves rejects him. He becomes buried with guilt and regret.

After a long period of grief and exclusion, Schlemihl breaks all ties with civilization. He escapes into nature searching for the peace of mind that was bartered away. With the aid of seven-league boots, he travels the world studying everything concerned with fauna and flora. In the end, he finds communion with his own better self and dies a satisfied man.

This work invites the viewer to enter Peter Schlemihl’s Atlas.
The flower arrangements represent the character’s dark phase, when light was shunned in order to hide the lack of a shadow.
The utopian landscapes visualize the start of Schlemihl’s refuge into nature. The black and white photographs are hand coloured with paint. This action symbolizes the colours that grew back in front of his eyes when the feeling of happiness returned.
The chemigrams refer to the time when the story was written. During the nineteenth century, poetry and philosophy were impregnated with scientific thought. Based on the plants that occur in the publication, Peeters created alchemic imprints.

Related
- Publication, Kunstkalender, 2015
- Interview, Urbanautica, January 2015
- Interview, Subbacultcha Magazine, May 2014
- Two flower still lifes are part of the Bankgiro Loterij Talent Collection 2014

Book

This book was created in collaboration with Masayo Matsuda for their duo show at The Art Department in Amsterdam. Peter Schlemihl travelled the world with the aid of seven-league boots. His body moved from a tropical climate to a Mediterranean environment in a matter of minutes. Intrigued to experience the same voyage the artists made extensive walks in botanical gardens.

Title: Botanical Archive
Photographer: Heleen Peeters, Masayo Matsuda
Year: 2014
Pages: 44
Edition: 1 (artist copy)

Exhibitions
2014 - Bankgiro Loterij Talent Collection, Unseen Photo Fair, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2014 - London Analogue Festival, OXO Tower, London, United Kingdom
2014 - Felix &Foam, Felix Meritis Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2014 - The Atlas of Peter Schlemihl, The Art Department (Subbacultcha), Amsterdam, The Netherlands